The Question of Rikers Island

Rikers Island is New York City’s main jail complex. Located in the East River and isolated from the rest of the city, Rikers has been historically known for corruption, inhumane conditions, and violence that affects not only the inmates but also the correction officers. On any given day, over 8,000 New Yorkers are jailed on Rikers, three out of four of them awaiting trial, charged but not convicted, and, in most cases, detained at Rikers because they cannot afford cash bail. More than 40 percent of these inmates suffer from mental health issues and almost 90 percent are people of color.

In 2017, the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, also known as the Lippman Commission, issued a report calling on the city to close Rikers. The initial and a subsequent report described Rikers as a “penal colony” and “irredeemable.” The city has suggested a ten-year timeline for closing Rikers, but that is far too long, and even that timeline is not guaranteed.

Community leaders and advocates have a strong role to play in the weeks and months ahead. Policies and reforms that will speed the closing of Rikers are being debated, and your voice is needed.


Take Action

Public Comment on Rikers

In September and October, the City held community hearings on its proposal to close the jails on Rikers Island and move toward a system of borough-based jails. Trinity has called for the jails on Rikers Island to be closed. Your public comment is needed. 

Public comment is being accepted through October 29th as part of the City Environmental Quality Review process. Your voice is important. To submit a comment, please write to Howard Fiedler at 75-20 Astoria Boulevard, Suite 160, East Elmhurst, NY 11370 or email

Community Events

Stay tuned for upcoming community hearings and events!

Sign Up For Updates


Ending Punishment for Poverty

The Mass Bail Out will post bail for hundreds of women and children awaiting trial, many of whom are held at Rikers Island and can’t afford bail. As the Rev. Winnie Varghese explains, cash bail is a broken system, a punishment for poverty. Hear why she and others from our Trinity Church Wall Street community are partnering with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights to support this historic action. Join us at

Cash Bail and Rikers Island Jail

Trinity Church Wall Street recently hosted faith groups committed to closing Rikers Island Jail, a goal that can’t be accomplished until the jail’s population, 78 percent of whom are accused but not convicted, is significantly reduced. One reason so many people remain in Rikers so long is that they cannot afford the cost of cash bail, one of many subjects retired Judge Jonathan Lippman and the Rev. Winnie Varghese of Trinity discussed in a wide-ranging video interview about Rikers.

Faith Communities and the Effort to Close Rikers Island Jail

Trinity Church Wall Street on April 17 hosted a breakfast meeting at St. Paul’s Chapel to bring faith communities together with leaders of the movement to close New York City’s Rikers Island Jail.

Discussing Rikers Island Jail

Trinity Church Wall Street on April 17 hosted a breakfast meeting at St. Paul’s Chapel for leaders of New York City’s faith communities on the subject of Rikers Island Jail.


Additional Information

For more information, or to request printed materials about closing Rikers, email